Understanding Bible Translations

best bible for beginners

Are you new to studying the Bible and wondering which Bible is right for you?

Well, it can be an overwhelming decision for sure. Just head over to your local bookstore or hop on Amazon and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of different Bibles. So many options to choose from. But it's a bit of a mixed blessing. The overwhelm is REAL.

 Which Bible is the most accurate?
 Which Bible is the easiest to read?
 What else do I need to know before buying?

When it comes to choosing a Bible, there are two things to consider:

  1. Which Bible translation?

  2. What type of Bible?

We’ll start by exploring the different translations in this post, and in my next blog post, we’ll talk about the different types of Bibles (study Bibles, commentary Bibles, devotional Bibles, etc.). I think some of my thoughts might surprise you, so stay tuned!

Understanding Bible Translations

The Bible comes in a multitude of translations, each with its own style and approach to translating ancient texts into modern language. You’ll want a Bible that is translated accurately but also one that you can understand.

Selecting a Bible that's very close to the original language isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t understand what it says!

It can be helpful to think of the different Bible translations as being on a spectrum.

Bible translation spectrum

At one end of the spectrum is the word-for-word translation. This approach seeks to represent the original Greek and Hebrew in a more word-for-word manner and preserve—as far as possible—original word order, grammar, and syntax.

On the other end of the spectrum, we find the thought-for-thought translation (also referred to as a paraphrase). This approach is more concerned with putting the meaning of the passage in modern language that is easier to understand. This type of translation seeks to render the ideas of the original text as accurately as possible in the target language (like English).

In the middle of the spectrum, there are translations that try to strike a balance between the two other translation approaches.

Which translation is right for you?

If you are looking for a good literal (word-to-word) translation of the Bible, I would recommend either the New American Standard Bible (NASB), or the English Standard Version (ESV).

However, if these versions are challenging to understand, you’ll want something more in the middle of the translation spectrum. In that case, I recommend the New Living Translation(NLT), the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) or the New International Version (NIV).

To illustrate the difference between translations, let’s look at Hebrews 2:2:

  • NASB - For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every violation and act of disobedience received a just punishment,

  • ESV - For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,

  • NIV - For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment,

  • CSB - For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment,

  • NLT - For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

  • MSG - It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off. If the old message delivered by the angels was valid and nobody got away with anything,

As you read through these different translations, are you able to see the progression from word-to-word to thought-for-thought?

It may also be helpful to head over to biblegateway.com and do a side-by-side comparison of multiple translations. I would suggest doing this with several verses from both the Old and New Testaments so that you really get a feeling for which version you prefer. 


bible translation parallel view on Biblegateway.com


I hope this post has been helpful and that you've found a Bible translation that works well for you. Be sure and come back next week, and we'll talk all about the different types of Bibles so you can find one that is right for you.

Much love,


 PS. Let me know in the comments which translation you choose!




  • Liz Capizano

    I have been using the She Reads Truth Bible which is the CSB for my own personal devotional reading for about 5 years and ESV for study since I joined the BSC in Feb. 2022. I will use the Message Bible for a more modern translation ❤️

  • Maura

    I like the NIV, NCV, and though I’m an adult, the International Children’s Bible. I use all 3 in the YouVersion Bible app.

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